Green Turtle Cay, the Abacos
- Many of the residents of the Abacos today are descendants of the British Loyalists who chose to flee the United States after backing the losing side in the Revolutionary War. These immigrants started an agricultural experiment in the Abacos, but the thin soil and infrequent rain shattered their hopes for decent yields. When the plantations planned for Great Abaco essentially flopped, many of those early settlers moved to the offshore cays to work in boatbuilding and fishing.
The occasional wreck that ran aground on the shallow reefs off the Abacos provided early commerce for the islanders as well. Abaconians would go out to rescue the luckless mariners and commandeer their cargo. By the law of the day, the cargo was sold in Nassau, with a certain percentage of the receipts paid in government tax; the largest portion went to the wreckers, and a pittance to the original mariner. It is said that the natives of Hope Town so depended on this source of livelihood that they sabotaged the construction of the Hope Town lighthouse in the 1830s. Today that famed candy cane lighthouse still serves as a beacon for those who ply the sea, but perhaps is more significant as one of the premier tourist attractions for the out islands of the Abacos.
Until a system of roads were built to facilitate logging on Great Abaco in the late 1950s, the Abaco cays were the island's centers of commerce and hubs of activity. Hope Town on Elbow Cay was even the seat of the Abaco islands' Commissioner until 1960.
Private boats were the main form of interisland transport, but an enterprising local by the name of Marcel Albury saw a need for a sort of water-taxi service to facilitate travel between the many small islands, and Albury's Ferry Service was born. Seaplanes used to land twice a week at Green Turtle and Man-O-War Cays, but once the international airports opened at Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay, it became far more practical for tourists to arrive by jet and then travel to the outer cays by water taxi. Now there are several water taxi vendors serving the out islands of the Abacos.
The island ferry was my form of transportation during my recent visit to Green Turtle Cay as well. I took a ferry from Great Abaco to Green Turtle and actually stepped off at the dock at Brendal's Dive Center. But that's because I was already in the Abacos. Someone originating in the US would fly to Treasure Cay, take a short taxi ride to the ferry dock, and then either go directly to Brendal's Dive Center or whatever accommodation might have been booked.
New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay once considered a hub of the Abacos, nearly as influential as Hope Town. Like the other small cays, boatbuilding was a prime industry, although for a short time pineapple plantations flourished. Today New Plymouth is a quaint fishing village with New England-style saltbox houses lovingly painted in pastels seemingly transported from another era. For anyone interested in scuba diving in Green Turtle Cay, all paths lead to Brendal's Dive Center.